The change in locker room leadership for the Nashville Predators will not be limited to the choice of captain. It also will limit the number of alternate captains.
Last week, after Shea Weber was introduced as the next captain, coach Barry Trotz said he planned to name two alternate captains in the coming weeks and that those two will function in that capacity throughout the season. That signaled a dramatic change from recent years when he has rotated the ‘A’ among a number of different players from month-to-month or even game-to-game.
At 24 (he’ll be 25 before the start of training camp), Weber is by far the youngest of the five captains in franchise history, and indications are that the youth movement will extend to the alternates as well.
“Captaincy or coaching doesn’t really have a lot of importance to a hockey team – or any team sport – when things are going great,” Trotz said. “It really becomes important when things are not going great.
“We’ve got some good young guys … and I don’t want to diminish anything that the past leaders have (done), but this is a special moment for us as an organization.”
Weber said late last week that he and Trotz already had had discussions about potential candidates to fill those spots.
“I think over the past few seasons, you’ve kind of seen which guys have emerged as leaders and which guys are coming up as leaders,” Weber said. “I don’t think there will be many problems in seeing those guys.”
An obvious choice is Ryan Suter, Weber’s defense partner. He has worn the ‘A’ at times in recent seasons for the Predators and was part of the leadership group for the United States hockey team at the Winter Olympics in February.
Center David Legwand and right wing Martin Erat are – like Weber and Suter – Nashville draft picks who never have played a game for another organization. Between them, they have more than 1,200 games of NHL experience yet neither has reached his 30th birthday.
It’s uncommon, but not unprecedented for goalies to be a part of team leadership, and Pekka Rinne’s work ethic, competitiveness and team-first mindset are unquestioned. Like the previous four, he too is a product of the Predators’ organization.
Among the older players, Steve Sullivan has been a constant presence on the leadership group in recent years. Francis Bouillon will be the oldest member of the defense corps in 2010-11.
“You go around the room and everybody does a job in their own way,” Weber said. … “The pressure was never really on one guy. Jason (Arnott) did a great job, but I don’t think there was ever any pressure on him. Everyone takes the pressure on themselves. I think that’s why we play well as a team.”